Program, Budget and Finance completes work on budget

[Episcopal News Service — Indianapolis] The Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance finished work July 9 on the budget that it will propose to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention tomorrow.

The 2013-2015 triennial budget is balanced at $110,516,032, compared to $111,808,350 for the current triennium and reflects a $30,000 surplus, Diocese of Maine Bishop Steve Lane told ENS in an interview after the committee passed the budget unanimously.

The budget’s income is “pretty flat” compared to the current triennium, he added.

PB&F decided July 7 to keep at 19 percent the amount that the church asks dioceses to annually contribute to the church-wide budget. That percentage is what was asked for this year, and had declined from 21 percent in 2010 and 20 percent in 2011.

Lane called it a “major advance” that “the budget contains resources to encourage collaborative relationships across the varying levels of the church — congregations, dioceses and the Episcopal Church — to work together to do new work for impact at the local level.”

“When I look at this budget that’s where a lot of money and effort has gone, is to develop these collaborative relationships across the various levels of our church,” he said. “We’re really encouraging the church center and the church staff to be in dialogue and relation with both dioceses and congregations in service to God’s mission.”

The committee increased the money in the budget that goes to mission, according to Lane and PB&F chair Diane Pollard, deputy from New York, by taking at least some of the needed money from internal restructuring in terms of administration and governance and modest staff reductions.

Those church-wide staff reductions are due to be accomplished in part by attrition and redeploying staff, according to Pollard.

The committee added block grants in each of the Five Marks of Mission areas around which the proposed budget in organized, they said.

“I think PB&F listened very hard to the testimony of the church and responded, putting money into requests for new programming of various kinds,” Lane said.

Further details of the budget will not be available until the budget committee presents it to a joint session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops at 2:15 p.m. July 10 in the House of Deputies.

Both Pollard and Lane again expressed concerned about the reduced time that PB&F had to do its work during a convention that is two days shorter than the previous one.

“We really felt as a committee that the shortened nature of this convention and that the two days we might have had after our hearing[s] to unpack [the testimony] and to receive further requests through the resolution process, we didn’t have and, consequently we’ve put this budget forward without receiving many resolutions,” Lane said. “We hope our listening to the church had been sufficient but we recognize that that this is an impediment or a problem in this year’s process.”

Pollard said that the committee worked “in a collegial, thoughtful, prayerful way, but recognizing our responsibility as the side of the church that needed to be the fiduciaries and be responsible business people”

She suggested that it might be helpful to the convention for PB&F to be able to have a hearing after the committee presented its budget and before it is debated in both houses.

Still, Pollard said the committee was pleased with the fact that each of its committee sessions were attended by other convention participants and that there was only once instance when one of the committee’s subsections went into an executive session.

Pollard and Lane suggested that the new iteration of PB&F, which must be appointed by Dec. 15, ought to be able to be involved in the building of the budget before the January before General Convention next convenes.

The church’s Executive Council typically approves a budget the January before convention convenes and gives it to PB&F as required by church canon (in Canon I.4.6) and the General Convention’s Joint Rules (in II.10 10 (a)).

“Calling Program, Budget and Finance into the process in the last six months is not acceptable,” Lane said. “We don’t have time to absorb what’s been done to consider all of the data and then to make thoughtful, prayerful adjustments to the budget in that timeframe. There has to be on-going consultation.”

— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

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